Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Imperatives of Discipleship

Mark 8:27-38

Below is my rough translation and some exegetical notes for Mark 8:27-38. Because this text comes up several times in the common lectionary, I am not approaching it quite as naively as I usually try to approach the texts. My comments will contend that this story is wrongfully identified as “Peter’s Declaration,” which is quickly shut down because of the “Messianic Secret.” And in the end, I think the phrase “Jesus’ First Prediction of His Death” should be “Jesus’ First Disclosure of His Death.” The point: I believe this is a heated roadside argument between Peter and Jesus over which direction they should take. Peter seems to have a triumphalistic view in mind of what it means to call Jesus “the Christ.” Jesus insists on taking another kind of path, using the language “Son of Man.” I will explain my position at the end of the translation, but throughout I will go with the most intense interpretation of the words in this story which demonstrate how contentious I believe Mark intends it to be. 
27 Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν  Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς κώμας Καισαρείας τῆς 
Φιλίππου: καὶ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐπηρώτα τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγων αὐτοῖς, Τίνα 
με λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι;
And Jesus and his disciples went into the village of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he was interrogating his disciples, saying to them, “Who are the people saying me to be?”
ἐξῆλθεν AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs  
ἐπηρώτα ,IAI 3s, ἐπερωτάω, 1) to accost one with an enquiry, put a question to, enquiry of,  ask, interrogate  2) to address one with a request or demand  2a) to ask of or demand of one 
λέγων: PAPart nsm,λέγω1) to say, to speak
λέγουσιν PAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶναιPAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. The verb “interrogate” (ἐπερωτάω) could be translated as “asked” (KJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV), but it also could take on a more intensive meaning because of the prefix (ἐπ). In Mt. 16:1, for example, the NRSV translates this verb that the religious leaders “ask” Jesus for a sign, but the editors make the subheading that they “demand”a sign. There are other words that could carry a much less ambiguous simple request or casual inquiry. This is one of those terms that Mark uses in a way that seems to indicate confrontation, not just inquiry. If we go with “interrogating,” then this conversation is not merely a matter of curiosity. Jesus is initiating this question to give them the right answer, contrary to what Simon Peter thinks. 

 28 οἱ δὲ εἶπαναὐτῷ λέγοντες [ὅτι] Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, καὶ ἄλλοι, Ἠλίαν,
 ἄλλοι  δὲ ὅτι εἷς τῶν προφητῶν. 
Yet they answered him saying, [“]John the Baptist; and others, Elijah, yet still others one of the prophets.[”]
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω1) to say, to speak
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω1) to say, to speak
1. This verse has evidently been worked over a bit in the scribal process. The brackets around the [ὅτι] signify that other manuscripts do not have this word. I use the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition (1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart) that is available via It is simply not a part of my exegetical work to compare Greek texts, so some help on this score would be appreciated. 
2. It seems – just from a quick glance and gut feeling – that the scribal edits here have to do with locating whether the participle “saying” is part of the quote or introduces the quote. The difference could look like this: “The disciples answered, saying ‘John the Baptists …’” or “The disciples answered, ‘They are saying John the Baptist …’”
3. The phrase “still others” is how the NRSV and NIV try to interpret the “δὲ ὅτι ” phrase. 

29 καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπηρώτα αὐτούς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; ἀποκριθεὶς  
Πέτροςλέγει αὐτῷ, Σὺ εἶ  Χριστός.
And he was interrogating them, “But who are you saying me to be?” Having answered Peter says to him, “You are the Christ.”
ἐπηρώτα, IAI 3s, 1) to accost one with an enquiry, put a question to, enquiry of,  ask, interrogate  2) to address one with a request or demand  2a) to ask of or demand of one 
λέγετε, PAI 2p, λέγω1) to say, to speak
εἶναι PAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s,  εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. Usually I translated the particle “δὲ” as “yet” because I try to keep the meaning as neutral as possible in the naïve translation. Then, perhaps, after word studies, contextual studies, etc. it might be appropriate to go with “and” or “then” or “but” – all of which are perfectly acceptable translations of δὲ. Since I am building a case here, I have interpreted Jesus’ use of δὲ as “but,” to show that he is expecting something different from the disciples. 
2. Peter’s response, that Jesus is “the Christ,” seems to be a great breakthrough moment in Mark’s gospel, given how often the twelve are said not to understand what is going on. However, see my comments below the translation on why I think this may be incorrect.
3. Notice that for this verse and v. 27 I am trying to keep the present tense of the question centered. It seems that "who are they saying" and "who are you saying" imply an ongoing conversation, more than just a "what have you heard?" Jesus is curious as to what the twelve are contributing to this ongoing conversation. In that sense, I think Peter is speaking on behalf of the twelve, not simply stepping forward with his own personal conviction. "Who are they saying that I am?" "They're saying that you are Elijah, etc." "But what are you contributing to this conversation? Who are you saying that I am?" Simon answered, "That you're the Christ."  And that is why Jesus immediately rebukes them, not him, in the next verse.     

30 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ λέγωσιν περὶ αὐτοῦ. 
And he rebuked them in order that they should be saying nothing about him. 
ἐπετίμησεν:AAI3s, ἐπιτιμάω See v. 32, 1) to show honour to, …  4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely  4a) to admonish or charge sharply 
λέγωσιν: PASubj  3p, λέγω1) to say, to speak
1. The verb “rebuked” (ἐπιτιμάω) gets curious treatment in this passage from translators. ἐπιτιμάω appears here and in v.32 and in v.33. In vv.32-3 almost all translations have “rebuke” (NRSV, NIV, ESV, YLT, KJV). But, in v.30, all of them soften the word to “warned” (NIV), “charged” (KJV), “strictly charged” (YLT, ESV). The NRSV doesn’t use “rebuke,” but it does maintain some of the edginess of the verb with “sternly ordered.” Why are the translations not consistent on translating this word? Why do they see Jesus’ response to Peter in v.30 differently than they see Peter’s response to Jesus in v.32 and Jesus’ other response to Peter in v.33? 
2. I think the reason for the translation choices is because we typically see this as Peter’s breakthrough moment. By using the same word consistently throughout the translation, we raise the question: If this is Peter’s great breakthrough moment, why would Jesus immediately rebuke him? And if Peter is speaking simply on his own behalf, why is Jesus rebuking 'them'? 
3. I simply do not believe Peter is making a faithful response. He is describing Jesus with a word, "Christ," which I certainly have no argument with. But, Jesus did have an argument with it. And that leads me to assume that the word "Christ" was loaded with meaning that Jesus was trying to avoid. (As an example, think of the difficulty of the phrase "Christ the King." What is intended to be honorific can also be misleading, if one's familiarity with the role of "king" is that of an imperious conqueror. So it goes with symbols and words - they can lose their meaning or take on connotations that are contrary to the original intention.) It seems to me that, for Mark, Jesus is really resisting this title, not just trying to control the message or keep it a secret. 

31 Καὶ ἤρξατο διδάσκειν αὐτοὺς ὅτι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ 
παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ τῶν ἀρχιερέων 
καὶ τῶν γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστῆναι:
Then he began to teach them that it is binding that the Son of Man to suffer much, and to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise.
ἤρξατο : AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
διδάσκειν: PAInf, διδάσκω, 1) to teach  1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them,  deliver didactic discourses
δεῖ: PAI 3s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten  1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains  1b) metaph.  1b1) Satan is said to bind a woman bent together by means of a  demon, as his messenger, taking possession of the woman  and preventing her from standing upright  1b2) to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc
παθεῖν:AAInf, πάσχω, 1) to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a  sensible experience, to undergo  1a) in a good sense, to be well off, in good case  1b) in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight  1b1) of a sick person 
ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι: APInf, ἀποδοκιμάζω, 1) to disapprove, reject, repudiate 
ἀποκτανθῆναι: APInf, ἀποκτείνω, 1) to kill in any way whatever  1a) to destroy, to allow to perish  2) metaph. to extinguish, abolish  2a) to inflict mortal death  2b) to deprive of spiritual life and procure eternal misery in hell 
ἀναστῆναι: AAInf, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead  1c) to raise up, cause to be born, to cause to appear, bring forward 
1. The verb “binding” (δέω) is typically translated as “must,” but it is a verb and it has the primary meaning of something being in chains – which gives it intensity and necessity. 
2. What is absolutely necessary for the Son of Man? To suffer, to be rejected, to be killed, and to rise. No interpretation of who Jesus is apart from that destiny is correct. And, it seems that the disciples' use of the title "Christ," in Mark's view, implies something apart from this destiny.  

32  καὶ παρρησίᾳ τὸν λόγον ἐλάλει. καὶ προσλαβόμενος  Πέτρος αὐτὸν ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ. 
And he was saying the word openly. And having taken him aside, Peter began rebuking him. 
ἐλάλει: IAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak  2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech  2b) to utter articulate sounds
προσλαβόμενος: AMPart nsm, λαμβάνω with πρός towards: to take thereto, that is to say in addition, to take besides. In NT middle, to take or receive to and for one's self
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
ἐπιτιμᾶν,v   3sg, PAI 3s, ἐπιτιμάω,1) to show honor to, to honor  2) to raise the price of  3) to adjudge, award, in the sense of merited penalty  4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely  4a) to admonish or charge sharply 
1. I'm curious about the word "openly." I do not accept that it is something like, "Jesus spoke openly about this suffering, but kept his messianism secret." My guess is that Mark is positing Jesus is speaking quite candidly about what it means to be the Son of Man. Suffering, rejection, death, and rising are the talking points, not whatever others meant by the term “the Christ.” 
2. Now it’s Peter’s turn to “rebuke.” Mark does not say what Peter said in his rebuke, only that Peter rebuked Jesus. Whatever Peter said, it was in response to and a vehement denial of the suffering, rejection, death, and rising of v.31. 
3. Again, to beat the drum doggedly, I have to assume that in Mark's time the question of whether to see Jesus primarily as "Christ" (with whatever connotations that might bring) or suffering "Son of Man" continued to have resonance. For example, look at how Matthew presents this story and Jesus' response to Simon Peter - it seems to represent a rival theology to what Mark is presenting. 

33  δὲ ἐπιστραφεὶς καὶ ἰδὼν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἐπετίμησεν Πέτρῳ καὶ 
λέγει,Υπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ, ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν 
But having turned and having seen his disciples, he rebuked Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan! Because you are not minding the things of God but the things of people.”
ἐπιστραφεὶς: APPart nsm, ἐπιστρέφω, 1) transitively  1a) to turn to  1a1) to the worship of the true God  1b) to cause to return, to bring back 
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know  3) to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience
ἐπετίμησεν: AAI 3s, ἐπιτιμάω, 1) to show honour to, to honour  …  4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely  4a) to admonish or charge sharply
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Υπαγε: PAImpv 2s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under  2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart 
φρονεῖς: PAI 2s, φρονέω, 1) to have understanding, be wise   2) to feel, to think   2a) to have an opinion of one's self, think of one's self, to be modest, not let one's opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty
1. I’m curious as to what role the “having turned and having seen his disciples” plays in this conversation. Is that Mark’s way of explaining the “Satan” reference, that although v.32 implies that Peter took Jesus aside, his remark needed a strong reaction because the others were hearing it (and perhaps agreeing)? I suspect the “Get behind me Satan” remark is connected to Peter ‘taking him aside’ in v.32. 
2. “Get behind me Satan” is an interesting phrase. We think of it as the way Jesus actually addressed Satan, because of Luke’s version of the temptation story (Lk. 4:8). But, the phase “behind me” (ὀπίσω μου) is used in 1:17 and 1:20 and in the next verse (8:34) to describe following as a disciple. Is Jesus calling Peter to become a disciple and not to presume anything more? 
3. The verb “minding” (φρονέω) is a very rich term in philosophy. Hans-Georg Gadamer, in Truth and Method, for example, talks about how “phronesis” is a kind of reflective ‘wisdom.’ The KJV translates this verb as “savoring.” I think that’s better than the NIV’s weak “have in mind”. The problem is Peter’s philosophy, not his passing thought. 

34 Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενοςτὸν ὄχλον σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, 
Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἀκολουθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθωἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν 
σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι. 
And having called the crowd with his disciples, he said to them, “If any wants to follow behind me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
προσκαλεσάμενος: AMP nsm, προσκαλέομαι, 1) to call to  2) to call to one's self  3) to bid to come to one's self  4) metaph.  4a) God is said to call to himself the Gentiles, aliens as they  are from him, by inviting them, through the preaching of the  gospel unto fellowship with himself in the Messiah's kingdom 
θέλει: PAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose  1b) to desire, to wish  1c) to love  1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing  1d) to take delight in, have pleasure 
ἀκολουθεῖν: PAInf, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him  2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple  2a) side with his party 
ἀπαρνησάσθω: AMImpv 3s, ἀπαρνέομαι, 1) to deny  1a) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone  1b) to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's  own interests. Could this be the opposite of φρονέω in v.33?  
ἀράτω : AAImpv 3s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones  1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand
ἀκολουθείτω: PAImpv 3s, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him  2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple  2a) side with his party 
1. I apologize for the male language. In a refined translation, I would strive to make this more gender-inclusive, but since it is singular and since saying “If anyone wants … that one must …” sounds so different from plain speech, I’m translating this literally at this point. 
2. For those of us who read this story two millennia after the fact, the referent for “taking up a cross” is the crucifixion of Jesus. Perhaps we can assume that was the case for Mark’s readers as well, especially since Jesus has just made the first disclosure about his impending death. Within the narrative itself, however, this is a curious reference. What did it mean – prior to the crucifixion of Jesus – to “take up your cross”? Even in disclosing his impending death, Jesus only says that he will be killed, not crucified on a cross. Did this phrase have meaning prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, or it is only meaningful as a post-crucifixion text – which would indicate that it is not a direct, real-time quote of what Jesus said? 

35ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ' ἂν 
ἀπολέσει τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ καὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου σώσει αὐτήν. 
For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever will lose his soul on account of me and the gospel, will save it.
θέλῃ: PASubj 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose  1b) to desire, to wish  1c) to love  1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing  1d) to take delight in, have pleasure
σῶσαι: AAInf, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction  1a) one (from injury or peril)  1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one  suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
ἀπολέσει: FAI 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin  1b) render useless  1c) to kill  1d) to declare that one must be put to death  1e) metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell  1f) to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed  2) to destroy  2a) to lose 
σώσει: FAI 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction  1a) one (from injury or peril)  1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one  suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
1. It is always a challenge for me to translate “soul” (ψυχὴν). It may be translated “life,” although there are other terms that more easily translate that way. The Greek word is the root for the English words “psyche,” “psychology,” etc., referring to the mind or that part of our existence that seems identifiably different from the body, however interconnected. And, of course, in Greek philosophy, the “immortality of the soul” reified and elevated the psyche to that part of human existence that both pre-existed our birth and continues to exist after our death. One of the challenges of the early church was to translate the Hebrew concepts of life, breath, nephesh, etc., and interpret them alongside of Greek terms. I’m not sure that the process should be as finalized as it appears to be these days. 

36τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖ ἄνθρωπον κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον καὶ ζημιωθῆναι τὴν 
ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ; 
For what profits a man to acquire the whole worldand to endanger his soul?
ὠφελεῖ: PAI 3s, ὠφελέω, 1) to assist, to be useful or advantageous, to profit 
κερδῆσαι: AAInf, κερδαίνω, 1) to gain, acquire, to get gain  2) metaph.  2a) of gain arising from shunning or escaping from evil (where we  say "to spare one's self", "be spared")  2b) to gain any one i.e. to win him over to the kingdom of God, to  gain one to faith in Christ  2c) to gain Christ's favour and fellowship 
ζημιωθῆναι: APInf, ζημιόω, 1) to affect with damage, do damage to  2) to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss
1. This verse could be heard in economic terms: what ‘profit’ to ‘gain’ and yet ‘lose’? 
2. My sense is that the use of the word Christ/Messiah in the Roman Empire was all about “gaining the whole world.” I think Jesus has not drifted off into a teaching about spiritual matters, but is continuing the strident corrective conversation that began with his and Peter’s radically different views of how to define who Jesus is.  

37τί γὰρ δοῖἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ; 
For what might a man give in return for his soul?
δοῖ: AASubj 3s, δίδωμι, to give, present (with implied notion of giving freely unforced; opposed to ἀποδίδωμι). Hence, in various connections, to yield, deliver, supply, commit, etc

38ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους ἐν τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ 
μοιχαλίδι καὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ, καὶ  υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται αὐτὸν 
ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων τῶν ἁγίων.
For whoever might be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of man also shall be ashamed when he may come in the glory of his father with the holy angels.” 
ἐπαισχυνθῇ: APSubj 3s, ἐπαισχύνομαι, 1) to be ashamed 
ἐπαισχυνθήσεται: FPI 3s, ἐπαισχύνομαι,1) to be ashamed 
ἔλθῃ: AASubj 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning 
1. There are several levels at which we can apprise what it means to “be ashamed” of Jesus and his words. It could speak to the boldness with which we proclaim a gospel that is ‘foolishness’ to some. It could speak to the situation facing Mark’s church, during a time of the diaspora caused by the destruction of Jerusalem. Some people see it as a foreshadowing of Peter’s denial and all of the disciples’ fleeing from Jesus at his arrest. In the story, however, it seems to refer to Peter’s rebuke because Peter did not accept Jesus’ disclosure that he was to suffer and die. 

As I indicated in the beginning remark, I believe this story is wrongly coded as Peter’s great confession, where Peter – for the first time of any disciple – gets it right in calling Jesus “the Christ.” Matthew seems to see it that way, with Jesus blessing Peter and saying “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you …” etc.  But, in Mark, I don’t believe Peter’s answer is correct – at least it is not what Jesus wanted the disciples to be telling people that he was (the question was “Who are you saying me to be?”) Working under the “messianic secret” motif, many interpretations say that Peter got it right, but Jesus “sternly warned” or “charged” the disciples to keep the “Christ” identification mum because … well, the reason for the messianic secret is not so clear. 
A plain reading would say that Jesus rebuked them for telling others that he was the Christ. The interpretive question is, why would Jesus rebuke them for saying that about him? We, of course, accept it as the right proclamation about Jesus. And, Mark says so in his very first verse, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ …” So, what’s the problem? 

There are seven times that “Christ” (or “Messiah” in some translations) appears in Mark. I am not including Mark 1:34, since it seems to be a late addition in some manuscripts. I will also take them a little out of order, which I hope is not confusing.  
- The first is in Mark 1:1, as I mentioned above. 
In three instances the term “Christ” seems to indicate something other than what Jesus intends to be
-  In Mark 12:35, Jesus is teaching in the temple and asks, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” The Scribes have a Christology that Jesus will challenge in this curious teaching. 
- In Mark 13:21, Jesus says, “And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Christ!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it.” It seems that Mark’s community needed to be on guard against false Christological claims.
- In Mark 15:32, the chief priests and the Scribes taunt Jesus, saying, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” To me, this is the significant indicator that there was a Christology in effect among the Jews at that time, which was a Christology apart from the cross
In one instance, Jesus uses the term “Christ” to indicate the dependency of his disciples.
- In Mark 9:41, Jesus says, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
In another instance, Jesus will accept the title “Christ,” but redefine it from one meaning to another. 
- In Mark 14:61 the high priests ask him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus will answer, “I am,” but then he will follow with “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power” and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” 
And in our pericope, Peter will use the term “Christ,” and Jesus respond with a charge to keep silent, then a disclosure of his impending suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. I would argue that Peter is claiming a false Christology and Jesus discloses his impending death as a way of wrestling the term “Christ” away from it cross-less interpretation. 

Jesus’ response to Peter is vehement and Peter’s reaction is vehement. He rejects Jesus’ suffering and death as a necessary part of what Jesus has been preaching about the presence of the Reign of God. And, of course, Jesus’ response to Peter’s rebuke is to demand that if they want any part of what he is about, they too must be willing to die. 

There are two distinct views of discipleship in contention here: One is a godly reflective decision to accept rejection, suffering, dying, and rising; the other is a human reflective decision to “gain the whole world.” I have to think that the Roman Empire is the primary example of this second kind of thinking. Imperial thinking is domination thinking; the imperial leader is the Christ/Messiah but not the Son of Man. That’s the path that Peter wants to take and it is a sore temptation to Jesus – that is my take of the “Satan” reference. In the end, this is not a straight road, but a crossroad. The disciples – at this point – are not yet disciples because (led by Peter) they are not yet behind Jesus, but are imagining themselves on a different path in the manner of imperial dominion. Jesus is going the other way. It will lead to Jerusalem, his rejection, suffering, death, and rising. 


  1. It's been too long since I studied Greek, so I really appreciate the work you do. Very helpful in getting through some of the words we take for granted.
    Rescue and destroy add a fresh dynamic to this text.

  2. ψυχὴν -- rather than life or soul, what about "identity" as a possible translation of this concept? (I'm borrowing from preaching by Tim Keller). Maybe it's too loaded, but it works for this generation I think. Thanks for your work!

  3. This is going way, way out there. But I am wondering with the use of the term opizo (get behind, and follow), and the use of the term epitiman (censure, honor)--AND the fact that Satan is named, could this, could this possibly be an invitation even to the Evil One to repent? Does God's realm or kingdom stretch that far? I ask this because one of the things Satan can't stand to be is truly a person--truly human. I quote from a lecture at LTS Gettysburg by Robert Jenson years ago: "God is fully and richly embodied for himself, and then for us, as Jesus the Son. Just so, he can give himself over to us and be maltreated by us. Just so his omnipotent rule is not tyranny. A purely disembodied consciousness, on the other hand, a consciousness that was always looking at us and never letting us look back, that always fixed its gaze and never let us see what he looked like, that would be a universal tyrant. And it is, of course, that to which Satan hopelessly aspires. A disembodied spirit with no object to give others, to to see himself in, would be, necessarily, a sort of universal hatred. Which is what ails the devil" p. 37, Lutheran Theological Seminary Bulletin, Winter 1989.

    1. Thanks for going there, Mark. I don't dispute the possibility that the Evil One might be able to, and welcomed to, repent. That would be an interesting scenario and might mark the end of the world as we know it. (Thank goodness.)
      My sense, for this text, is that Jesus is using a meaning-filled title for Peter, just like Peter is using a meaning-filled title for Jesus. I would need some convincing that Jesus is suddenly addressing Satan and not Peter in this conversation.
      Thanks for going there. MD

    2. I always find this 'Satan' as a shocking statement. I think capitalising the satan leads us down a path with its loaded meaning. Being an aramaic orhebrew term simply meaning 'adversary' or 'accuser' rather than turning it into the name of a spiritual being simplifies our attempt to come to grips with what Jesus is saying here and is more in line with the gist of this blog Mark.

  4. thanks for your work. parrhesia. thanks for the work of knowing/checking that this word is only used here. you always offer insights and fresh perspective.

  5. Mark,
    I am a Lutheran Pastor in Helena and I want to thank you for your insight translations and comments. You are one of the sources I go to on a weekly basis for exegetical preparation! Great work Mark! Thank you. Brad

    1. Thank you, Brad. May your service to the folks in Helena be blessed.

  6. Thank you so much for your incredible work. This blog is always my first stop in my sermon prep.

  7. I know it's late in the week, but here is a cut on this text: Jesus, in trying to assess the honor ascribed to him by the public (covered already in 6:14-16) as understood by the disciples asks them the question. And then Jesus asks about the level of honor ascribed by the in-group (disciples). They give the correct answer, but Jesus knows they still don't understand (8:21), so he "rebukes" them in telling them not to spread disinformation. Jesus then teaches them what it means for him to carry that label. Peter, still not understanding (nor do the 11), "rebukes" Jesus which just goes to show that Jesus was correct in "rebuking" the disciples in v. 30. Jesus then teaches the crowd (along with the disciples who usually in Mark are the only ones to get the in-depth teachings) what it means for them (and us) as followers for Jesus to be the suffering Son of Man (anointed one). Lesson for me: Don't tell people who Jesus is unless you truly know--the suffering son of man. Don't just tell about the Mark 1:1 - 8:26 Jesus. At least that's how I read it. And indeed, epitimao does indeed provide the thread for the interpretation.

    1. Hi Mark. That sounds meaningful to me. Thanks for the summary.

  8. Re: "It seems to me that, for Mark, Jesus is really resisting this title, not just trying to control the message or keep it a secret."
    "the “Hidden Messiah” motif in Second Temple Jewish literature had been developed under the strong influence of this verse. Furthermore, if a man considered himself to be the messiah, he had to be silent about his messiahship until the appointed time."


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